All of us know someone with germophobic tendencies. Maybe you, the reader, are a germophobe, diligently sanitising your hands every time you touch something dirty. But is hand sanitiser good or bad?
Hand sanitisers are useful in hospitals to prevent the spreading of bacteria and viruses from one patient to another. Outside of a hospital, however, people catch respiratory viruses from direct contact with people who already had them, so sanitising their hands wouldn't have protected them anyway. Hand sanitisers don't seem to do anything more than just washing your hands would.
People love their hand sanitisers so much because it is portable and convenient. It's always better to wash your hands with soap and water, but when you're not close to a tap, for instance outdoors or in a car, hand sanitisers can help. Sanitising is better than not cleaning at all. They're not very useful if your hands are visibly dirty, though.
Cold and flu season
Hand sanitisers are useful during the winter as they can prevent excessive spreading of germs. After you sneeze or cough into your hands, it's better to use hand sanitiser than not washing your hands.
A drawback of using hand sanitiser, is that it must be used correctly. Always read the label to find the proper amount to use, and rub it all over the surface of both hands until it is dry. Do not wipe or rinse your hands after using the sanitiser.
Different kinds of sanitisers
Studies have found that certain ingredients in some of the popular hand sanitisers might be harmful to our health. Some hand sanitisers contain antibacterial chemicals like triclosan. Triclosan is still being investigated, but is said to lead to antibiotic resistance in humans, increased BPA absorption through the skin leading to hormonal imbalances, and weaker immune systems. Rather avoid triclosan-containing hand sanitiser.
The better kind of hand sanitiser to use is the kind that contains at least 60% of alcohol. Lower concentrations of alcohol might not be effective enough to kill germs.
Why soap and water is better
The best way to clean your hands is still good old soap and water. You should always rather wash your hands with soap and water when you can. Simply washing your hands for 20 seconds with normal, non-bacterial soap and warm water, will get rid of more than enough of the harmful germs.
Is hand sanitiser good or bad?
If you're still wondering if using hand sanitiser is good or bad, consider the bacteria it kills. Hand sanitisers do kill certain harmful bacteria, but it also kills the good bacteria that live on our skin. We need the good bacteria to protect us from other, potentially harmful bacteria. If you kill the good bacteria, they can't protect you. Be sure to protect them by rather just washing your hands with soap and water when you can, instead of always reaching for the hand sanitiser.